Holiday homes under the hammer as government sets out vision for reforming short-term lets
With the local election campaign well underway and the 4 May drawing nearer, the government handed what it hopes will be a boost to local communities in tourist hotspots by unveiling its plan to reform the short-term letting market in England.
In a new consultation launched by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), the government proposes introducing planning permission for existing homes to start to be used as a short-term let. The government will also consider whether to give owners flexibility to let out their home for up to a specified number of nights in a calendar year without the need for planning permission.
The move comes off the back of increased attention on the impact that short-term lets are having in tourist hotspots such as Devon, Cornwall and the Lake District. One particularly impacted town, Salcombe in South Devon – recently named the most expensive seaside town in the UK – was spotlighted by the BBC with testimonials about the impact that the tourist economy was having in pushing local residents away and freezing them out of the housing market. Though there is no single, definitive source of data on the short-term letting market – its very nature means that this is hard to quantify – estimates from CPRE, the countryside charity, estimated that there are as many as 148,000 properties listed as short term and holiday lets in England. This represents a 1000% increase in lets nationally in the period 2015 – 2021.
With the pandemic seeing a rise in domestic tourism, and with the rapid expansion of a relatively unregulated market, it is little wonder that the government have stepped in to take action. Moreover, today’s announcement in England follows action already taken by the Scottish and Welsh governments to regulate their short-term letting markets too.
Alongside the DLUHC consultation is another call for evidence from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the introduction of a registration scheme for short-term lets. Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said that there was an “incomplete picture of the size and spread of the short-term lets market”, with a national scheme providing “the data that we need to assess the position and enable us to address the concerns we face”.
With the local election campaigns underway and the focus for politics shifting back to towns and communities across England, the government will be hoping to reap the electoral benefits from those tourist hotspots and to add to the Prime Minister’s growing reputation as someone who gets things done.
On the other side of the aisle, Labour’s Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy had been calling for a similar licensing scheme to preserve the “spirit” of coastal and rural communities, though attacked the government for its record on housebuilding.
Nandy is likely to feel vindicated in this attack line, with the Prime Minister admitting that his government had ditched its target of building 300,000 new homes per year in a move to satisfy party members in opposition to what they described as a “nationally-imposed, top-down set of targets”. With some way to go in the local election campaign, expect to see this story run and run.